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Is Sugar Toxic?

First, read this NYT article on why sugar is so dangerous to your health. I'll wait.

I stopped eating refined sugars a year ago, and within two weeks I lost 10 pounds. I also started feeling healthier almost right away. This is why: Not only does sugar (cane, corn, you name it - refined sugar) make us fat, but it also causes insulin resistance. This makes it a primary cause for diabetes and metabolic syndrome. That means sugar causes heart disease. Worse yet, because of all these effects, it promotes cancer.

There's a terrifying thought, considering that it's in almost every prepared food you find in the grocery store.

Click the image to see the NYT article.

Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to give up refined sugar for one month. See how much your body responds.

Starting today, I'm giving up on diet soda, as well. Why? One's body sees the artificial sweetener and produces insulin in response... so the most dangerous aspect of sugar - that it promotes these diseases - can't be avoided by using artificial sweeteners in place of sugar. I've been noticing soreness in my guts, what appears from all symptoms to be a gall-bladder issue. Therefore, my body is responding to diet soda by producing insulin and increasing my triglycerides (blood fat) from artifical sweetneners.


I'll report in a month on how that's going. I hope to hear from YOU, too!

Good luck.



( 81 comments — Leave a comment )
Apr. 19th, 2011 06:51 pm (UTC)
Apr. 19th, 2011 08:31 pm (UTC)
Thank you!
Apr. 19th, 2011 06:54 pm (UTC)
This is an amazing and huge step! I'm so proud of you!
Apr. 19th, 2011 08:38 pm (UTC)
Thank you! Your support helps so much in these things.
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Apr. 19th, 2011 08:40 pm (UTC)
I've been thinking about that a lot, too: Eating a lot of animal fat leads to gall-bladder issues in addition to everything else. I've already been cutting down on animal fat as much as I can while still doing paleo. *sigh*

Thanks, and good luck to you, too!
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(no title) - mckitterick - Apr. 20th, 2011 04:56 pm (UTC) - Expand
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Apr. 19th, 2011 06:58 pm (UTC)
What does giving up refined sugar entail?
Apr. 19th, 2011 07:24 pm (UTC)
Reading every package of everything you plan to eat, and make sure that it's not included as an ingredient.

Spaghetti sauce often contains sugars, for example.

(no title) - mckitterick - Apr. 19th, 2011 07:45 pm (UTC) - Expand
Apr. 19th, 2011 06:59 pm (UTC)
I've tried to give up the Diet Coke so many times. It's really hard. Good luck!
Apr. 19th, 2011 07:52 pm (UTC)
I know! Giving up cookies and stuff was rough, so maybe this'll be easier....
(no title) - j_cheney - Apr. 19th, 2011 08:18 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no title) - mckitterick - Apr. 19th, 2011 08:41 pm (UTC) - Expand
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(no title) - mckitterick - Apr. 20th, 2011 04:07 am (UTC) - Expand
Apr. 19th, 2011 07:08 pm (UTC)
I've done this with great results (lost 30 lbs in just a few months), but it was far too easy to give up on it when i stopped caring a lot about how i looked. I keep telling myself i'll start watching what i eat again, for the sake of my health, but it's really hard to be motivated to follow through. Give me another week to get over all the upcoming holiday stress and maybe i'll be on board again, ha.
Apr. 19th, 2011 07:54 pm (UTC)
I'm so happy with how I look these days - look, abs! - that it's self-reinforcing at this point. Congrats on losing all the weight; at some point, I bet you'll start enjoying how you look more than the food. Luckily, I no longer crave chocolate. Much.
(no title) - hippie_mamabear - Apr. 19th, 2011 08:01 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no title) - emt_hawk - Apr. 19th, 2011 08:38 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no title) - mckitterick - Apr. 19th, 2011 08:42 pm (UTC) - Expand
I guess it all depends on your willpower. - emt_hawk - Apr. 20th, 2011 07:28 pm (UTC) - Expand
almost forgot - emt_hawk - Apr. 20th, 2011 07:29 pm (UTC) - Expand
Apr. 19th, 2011 07:08 pm (UTC)
Honestly, I didn't have the earth-shattering change that many people report. I dunno why, if it's that I wasn't very hooked, or if I have a resilient body that wasn't responding, or if I just am not in tune with what's going on in my body. I do notice, however, that even fruit these days is sickly sweet. I can't drink fruit juice anymore, even the all-natural no-sugar kind, because it's too sweet. I did see a lot of weight loss when I gave it up, too, so I'm not saying it's worthless, just that I'm kinda getting annoyed at all the "OMG I saw the light" statements because it's starting to make me wonder what's wrong with me that I didn't have that.
Apr. 19th, 2011 07:55 pm (UTC)
Ha! You were just lucky, is all.
(no title) - hippie_mamabear - Apr. 19th, 2011 08:01 pm (UTC) - Expand
Apr. 19th, 2011 07:12 pm (UTC)
That article is right on. Kudos to you for giving up the sugar & diet soda!

I never liked soda much, whether regular or diet. Coffee, on other hand, I can't live without. I no longer put sugar in it, which was quite an adjustment at first.
Apr. 19th, 2011 07:56 pm (UTC)
Thanks! Nowadays, I just use milk as a sweetener. It really does have a lot of sugar, compared to other natural foods, just it's not refined to the point of being grossly sweet.
Apr. 19th, 2011 07:13 pm (UTC)
I gave up soda two years ago for the final time. Diet soda, of course. I don't drink any sort of soda now.

But I do drink coffee. With sugar.

I've been thinking about the whole cutting out sugar thing for quite some time but I don't know if I can cut it out entirely. Some days, that damn cup of coffee in the morning is the only good thing that happens to me all day.

I used to live for most of my life relatively sugar free. I didn't eat much because it wasn't allowed in my house and I never craved it. It wasn't until the last seven years that I started to eat it. And it shows in the way I look.
Apr. 19th, 2011 07:58 pm (UTC)
Good for you! I hope I can do it without all the cravings. Need to move the diet soda into storage for parties to avoid the temptation.

I use milk to sweeten my coffee. Never much liked sugar in it, oddly! I think it's because that's how my grammie would make it for me. She called it "baby coffee" - more milk than coffee.
(no title) - victoria_lane - Apr. 19th, 2011 08:03 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no title) - mckitterick - Apr. 19th, 2011 08:43 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no title) - victoria_lane - Apr. 19th, 2011 08:49 pm (UTC) - Expand
Apr. 19th, 2011 07:19 pm (UTC)

..."Glucose and maltodextrin ingestions resulted in similar increases in blood glucose and insulin concentrations. However, only glucose triggered an early rise in insulin concentrations. Aspartame did not trigger any insulin response. "

The Internet is full of hype why artificial sweeteners are omgbad. However, the places that decry sweeteners as horrible (they cause cancer/brain tumors/insulin resistance/sweet adaptation/harlequin syndrome) are themselves impeachable. I trust sources from unbiased, peer-reviewed third parties. I have yet to see actual, compelling evidence that aspartame, Splenda or other artificial sweeteners cause/contribute to obesity/cancer/etc. In fact, all the studies I've seen indicate quite the opposite.


Apr. 19th, 2011 07:59 pm (UTC)
Huh - thanks for the information. I've seen conflicting reports on this, but haven't been quite sure how to address the gall-bladder issue. Hm.
(no title) - tully01 - Apr. 20th, 2011 12:43 am (UTC) - Expand
(no title) - mckitterick - Apr. 20th, 2011 04:35 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no title) - tully01 - Apr. 20th, 2011 07:06 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no title) - mckitterick - Apr. 20th, 2011 07:23 pm (UTC) - Expand
Apr. 19th, 2011 07:22 pm (UTC)
First off, that's cool.
Watch out for HFCS, because it's hidden in most products, including lots of breads.

I'm a Type II Diabetic, they found out when I was brought home from the WTC incident, and had a CBC and a chest x-ray.

If you can, have an Hemoglobin A1C test done by your doctor, on a regular basis as well. That will give you an average of your blood glucose for a 3 month period. An alternative would be to monitor your blood glucose using a standard meter, or purchasing a home A1C test. Using the US standards, your blood glucose should produce an A1C of as close to 6 as possible. Doing the A1C means you're not subjecting yourself to the less precise and more frequent blood sugar tests that I do every morning, lunch, dinner, and bedtime.

Apr. 19th, 2011 08:03 pm (UTC)
Re: First off, that's cool.
Geez, HFCS is EVERYWHERE. Thanks for the information! I've been meaning to watch my blood glucose; a home test that I can run regularly sounds like a great idea.
Re: First off, that's cool. - emt_hawk - Apr. 19th, 2011 08:34 pm (UTC) - Expand
Apr. 19th, 2011 07:33 pm (UTC)
Hooray! I'm so glad this information is getting out there. I don't eat refined sugars if i can help it, but it's a battle because it's in so many things. I've pretty much given up shopping at conventional supermarkets. Luckily, my town has a large health food store that has made it it's policy not to stock items that contain refined sugar. I can shop there without having to read every label.
Apr. 19th, 2011 08:05 pm (UTC)
Most of my calories each day come from a hot salad I make for brunch: meat, tons of spinach, broccoli, cheese, nuts, raisins, carrots, balsamic vinegar, olive oil. Other than that, I get lovely home-made dinners from clevermanka and eat sardines, nuts, and fruit other times. That's how I avoid refined sugar!
Apr. 19th, 2011 07:50 pm (UTC)
I support you fully and wish you luck.
Apr. 19th, 2011 08:06 pm (UTC)
Apr. 19th, 2011 08:03 pm (UTC)
I've long thought there's no advantage to diet soda over regular, and when I had to cut out regular soda I went first to orange juice and then to water.

There's sugar in the jelly and toast, but unless I have ice cream, that's the only sugar I encounter in a day.

I'm supposed to watch my salt intake, because of Meniere's Disease. That means no cheese, and that's actually been harder than sugar.

A hot tub full of high fructose corn syrup is kind of gross.
Apr. 19th, 2011 08:08 pm (UTC)
I don't know what I'd do if I had to give up cheese. Wow. Don't they make unsalted cheese?

Good on you for going all the way to water! Right now, I'm drinking a big mug of green tea and hoping to get caffeined up for class...
(no title) - holyoutlaw - Apr. 19th, 2011 08:53 pm (UTC) - Expand
Apr. 19th, 2011 08:33 pm (UTC)
This is a continuing challenge for me, and it hits so very close to home. Dad's been diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes and mom has had breast cancer. Dietary factors are really the only risk I'm in charge of anymore.

I do know I was losing weight -- particularly that abdominal fat -- when I didn't consume sugar. (Artificial sweeteners make me feel ill.) I slept better, woke better, and had better energy throughout the day.

I keep giving it up and then falling off the wagon. ::sigh:: Every breath is a chance to start over, right?
Apr. 19th, 2011 08:37 pm (UTC)
Yup. You don't take a walk by jumping from where you are to where you want to be in one shot. You get there by putting one foot in front of the other. Sometimes, you get distracted. You just put one foot in front of the other until you get where you were headed.

(no title) - mckitterick - Apr. 20th, 2011 04:10 am (UTC) - Expand
Apr. 19th, 2011 08:46 pm (UTC)
So perhaps you can help me out here: what exactly does this entail, in my case? To clarify, I never consume white sugar, but I do use brown (cane) sugar in baked goods. There was a period I used date sugar, but it is very expensive. I use honey more often than I use any type of sugar.

Also not eating: any commercial/packaged baked goods, any sodas, any commercial sauces except gluten-free organic soy sauce and an occasional gluten-free Teriyaki (although these are hard to find).

Eating: honey; fruit, incl. dried fruit; chocolate (milk, white, and dark); coffee, which sometimes involves flavored coffees, although most flavored coffees are too sweet for me; occasional coffeeshop baked goods (primarily from Wheatfields); occasional Chinese meals from the Underground, which do involve inordinate amounts of something-or-other sweet.
Apr. 20th, 2011 04:19 am (UTC)
Refined sugar (as defined in that article) is anything that's had the sugar concentrated. So an apple - though high in sugar - is okay, because it's still a magnitude less refined than a spoonful of sugar or a candy bar.

Brown sugar is just about as concentrated as white sugar, as is honey (sadly). Basically, the idea is that you want to eliminate the huge insulin hits that only come from refined sugars.

You'd be amazed at how much refined sugar ends up in everything we eat in this country - especially packaged foods.
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The part he missed - emt_hawk - Apr. 20th, 2011 07:38 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no title) - mckitterick - Apr. 20th, 2011 04:11 am (UTC) - Expand
Apr. 19th, 2011 09:03 pm (UTC)
Except that this article is wrong about sugar vs HFCS -- by the author's own admission, fructose is the issue, so more fructose IS more problematic. Plus, there's research to back it up: http://www.princeton.edu/main/news/archive/S26/91/22K07/
Apr. 20th, 2011 04:12 am (UTC)
Oh, true; I think he was just trying to make clear that ALL refined sugar is toxic.
(no title) - siro_gravity - Apr. 20th, 2011 09:16 am (UTC) - Expand
(no title) - mckitterick - Apr. 20th, 2011 05:02 pm (UTC) - Expand
Apr. 19th, 2011 10:21 pm (UTC)
I'll give it a try... after Easter :D When I finish out all the food I have left in storage. I've been meaning to cook more anyway!
Apr. 20th, 2011 04:13 am (UTC)
Good for you!
(Deleted comment)
Apr. 20th, 2011 12:45 am (UTC)
Mmmmm, coffee.....
(no title) - mckitterick - Apr. 20th, 2011 05:03 pm (UTC) - Expand
Apr. 20th, 2011 03:56 am (UTC)
On your mark, Get set ..... Go!
I've actually been thinking of doing this very thing. The fact that you are now issuing a challenge with results imminent makes it a MUST.
Ok, I accept!
Starting tomorrow morning (and I can't believe I'm saying this) no more refined sugar.
One month seems both reasonable and ridiculously long at the same time. haha

Apr. 20th, 2011 04:14 am (UTC)
Re: On your mark, Get set ..... Go!
You can do it! I started with two weeks, and it took the full two weeks before I stopped having such sugar cravings. But after that? Refined sugar tastes bad to me now.
Re: On your mark, Get set ..... Go! - justaqt - Apr. 20th, 2011 06:11 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: On your mark, Get set ..... Go! - mckitterick - Apr. 20th, 2011 06:32 pm (UTC) - Expand
Apr. 20th, 2011 09:12 am (UTC)
hi chris!
how've you been?
i watched that dude's whole hour and a half lecture up and youtube. it's really interesting -did you watch it?

i have been on a diet for a month now, and have lost 15 pounds. thing is, my diet is not much like a diet...with the exception of a teaspoon of sugar in my coffee, the only thing i've cut out is ALL processed foods.

i still eat taters (glucose is ok) & my thinking was that if it comes out of the ground and isn't fiddled with by large corporations, i'm allowed to eat it. seems to me that mostly i'm doing what this guy recommends.

on the opposite side of the country, it just so happens that my sister is doing the same thing. she said, "i won't buy anything from the middle of the grocery store." it's more than the refined sugars in processed foods, they are full of all kinds of non-foodular weirdness that shouldn't be eaten!

anyhow, i hope it continues to go well for you over there. shouldn't be too hard to quit the diet soda since it tastes so terrible. :)
Apr. 20th, 2011 04:42 pm (UTC)
Hi S.! I've been insanely busy, as my spring semesters always are these days: 8 classes, reading for the Campbell Award, planning for the CSSF summer program, working on new stories and essays, blah blah blah.

Haven't watched the full lecture, but I've read a lot of his work; linked it as I know a lot of people prefer that to reading.

Congrats on losing that weight! Yeah, just cutting sugar and processed crap is enough for most people to reach a healthier weight. I eat taters, too, though mostly the ones with color (sweet taters are my fave) because you get more nutrients for the calories.

My rule of thumb for buying packaged food: Does it contain more than 5 ingredients? Do you not recognize the name of any of them? Is one of the ingredients a chemistry word? Stay away.

Apr. 20th, 2011 01:24 pm (UTC)
One of the sources of reverse culture shock when I returned to the US after 10 years of living in Costa Rica was the sheer amount of sugar that is shoveled onto our plates at most any restaurant or coffee shop. Often times, there are no choices that do not have sugar. If you'd like something to accompany your coffee, for example, it MUST be sweet (and BIG). What's up with that? No one needs that much sugar. In fact, as you've demonstrated, no one needs sugar at all.

I'm not to the point of giving up sugar altogether, but I do see the excess everywhere I turn. Kudos to you for taking a stand on this.

(I've found the same problem with fats, by the way -- even "healthy" restaurants often use an extraordinary amount of oil and fat in their food. And the salads are sweet.)
Apr. 20th, 2011 02:34 pm (UTC)
The reason you get big items with your coffee, is because there are costs associated with running a brick-and-mortar storefront.

In this case, the food [in this case, typically flour, sugar, yeast, water, etc.] is the cheap part. The building and the wages [and benefits] are the expensive part. And as the price of gasoline/diesel fuel goes up, so do the prices of the things that depend on fuel go up. Cooking costs are part of that, as well as shipping the raw materials around the country.

However, if they started raising the prices to reflect the fuel, raw materials price increases, wages, insurance, worker's comp insurance, etc., without making the physical object larger, people would stop going there, because they would not see the hidden costs. So they make the bagels two or three times larger than they used to be, so they can raise the prices without people going elsewhere.

And we become two or three times larger than we used to be.

(no title) - karin_gastreich - Apr. 20th, 2011 03:20 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no title) - mckitterick - Apr. 20th, 2011 04:49 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no title) - mckitterick - Apr. 20th, 2011 04:48 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no title) - karin_gastreich - Apr. 21st, 2011 01:10 pm (UTC) - Expand
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